Pierce has the swagger down

DALLAS -- It might not have been Larry Bird bursting into the locker room before the NBA's inaugural 3-point Contest and asking his competition who planned on finishing second, but Celtics captain Paul Pierce arrived in Dallas with plenty of swagger for this season's event.

Twenty-four years and little more than a mile removed from where Bird's exploits unfolded at Reunion Arena, Pierce playfully trash-talked his competition, then anointed himself one of the greatest shooters in NBA history after edging Stephen Curry and Chauncey Billups to win the 2010 3-point contest at the American Airlines Center.

"This is where he won it?" Pierce asked when informed of the ties between him and Bird. "Wow. They say history always repeats itself and it did tonight. The stars were lined up."

With the stars lined up in the audience, Pierce put his newfound 3-point talents -- he's shooting a career-best 44.8 percent from beyond the arc this season, up nearly 5 percent from last season -- on full display by topping some of the game's top long-distance shooters.

Pierce opened the competition and, despite a sluggish start (he missed six of his first seven tries), got hot late in the third rack (he made 8-of-9 at one point) to finish with 17 points and slide into the finals.

Pierce made only six of his final 12 shots, but that included three money balls (he made all five of the red, white and blues during his final round) to finish with 20 points and outdistance Curry (17) and Billups (14).

When Curry missed his first attempt on the final rack, ensuring a victory for Pierce, the Celtics captain stood up and raised his arms in celebration. Soon, teammate Kevin Garnett joined him on the floor for an impromptu victory dance similar to the one Pierce typically does with Eddie House at the end of pregame introductions.

His bravado took center stage as he accepted the champion's trophy at midcourt. In an interview broadcast on television and throughout the arena, Pierce suggested he was one of the best shooters in NBA history, drawing an audible groan from the crowd.

But he didn't back down from the statement.

"I would say I'm one of the best -- I've always said this and I tell this to the guys on my team," said Pierce. "I've always been known as a pure scorer, and I've always said if I just sat outside and shot 3s, and just really focused on that -- coming off of screens and spot-up 3s -- and shot six or seven 3s a game, I would probably be more known as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.

"I take the opportunity 3s and I think I'm one of the better shooters. I've proved that this year with my percentage and the way I'm shooting the ball," he said.

Pierce jubilantly bounded into the interview area, still playing Rodney Dangerfield's "No Respect" card as he planted the oversized trophy on the dais and smiled broadly for the TV cameras.

It's clear how much the title meant to Pierce, particularly at age 32, when he's accomplished just about everything else in his career.

"It's not up there like winning a championship, but there's definitely some pride in going out there and winning the competition," Pierce said. "This is one of those things where I wanted to win because of what I did in 2002. I take pride in every competition, whether it's basketball, shooting, checkers, chess -- this is something that, if I'm going in, I might as well try to win. It's something that's more hardware for the trophy case."

When it was announced earlier this month that he'd be in this season's event, Pierce told Boston reporters he planned on winning the competition. Even as he nursed a left midfoot sprain, he stressed how important it was for him to redeem himself after a dismal showing in his only other appearance in 2002 (a gruesome first-round exit).

After Saturday's victory, he detailed his efforts to practice for the event, which were already hindered because the Celtics don't even have five ball racks for him to practice with a full setup.

"A lot of times I was going to the gym at night, a lot of times I was getting there early before practice, when nobody is in the gym," Pierce said. "I really couldn't practice, because we don't have five ball racks. But the key was just getting the technique of pulling the ball off the rack and then shooting the ball, because it's a lot different than when you get the ball from a pass and shoot it."

As for the foot injury, it felt just fine after a championship effort. Pierce suggested he'd limit his activity in Sunday's game and be ready for the second half of the season.

"It felt good," said Pierce. "I really didn't think about it. It's getting better these last few days with rest and it's really feeling good. I probably won't play too much [Sunday] in the All-Star Game, get a chance to rest and get some treatment for the next couple days until we start our [four-game] road trip in Sacramento on Tuesday."

But as his postgame chat with the media wound down, Pierce was already thinking ahead to next season and defending his title near his hometown in Los Angeles.

Pierce acknowledged earlier this season that his days as an All-Star might be winding down, so he's savoring every moment of All-Star Weekend when he is voted here (each time as a reserve).

Saturday's title buys him at least one more visit. Of course, Bird won three straight events, so Pierce has plenty to shoot for.

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.